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Interview: AIPLA President Denise DeFranco



Michael Loney, Washington DC


Looking back on a whirlwind year: Denise DeFranco reflects on her term as AIPLA President, which included the passage of the Defend Trade Secrets Act and ramping up of the Association's publications

DeFranco-DeniseDenise DeFranco says her year as AIPLA President has been a whirlwind.

"The one thing that I have learned this year is exactly how much AIPLA does for its members and for the IP community as a whole," she says.

"I initially saw the leadership of AIPLA through the lens of the amicus work that the association does, that was my sweet spot and what I really had a passion for. As I have been involved in the leadership, I have learned all of the other things that we do for our members, everything from networking opportunities to education to advocacy in other forums, not just amicus briefs. The list just goes on and on. So in the past year I have really come to appreciate all that the Association has to offer its members and the IP community as a whole."

One goal DeFranco had for the year was to "bring some life to AIPLA's publication efforts." 

She started the Special Committee on Publications to give members a platform for publishing their works. "We have really put into place a process for generating an extensive library of books for our members to learn from but also opportunities for our members to publish," says DeFranco.

This year, in cooperation with Bloomberg BNA, AIPLA published a book titled "Patents After the AIA", and the Association is working on books on design patents, the new trade secrets law, and patents on standards. "We are putting together a good library on a broad range of topics," she says. "I am really pleased with how that is going."

The trade secrets book would be timely, with the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) signed into law in May.

"AIPLA played our part in helping to work with the Hill in getting something enacted," says DeFranco. "That's something we are really proud of. The DTSA creates a federal civil cause of action for trade secret misappropriation, which has long been needed in our IP jurisprudence. I think AIPLA can be proud of its contribution to help move that forward."

DeFranco says the DTSA is already having an effect.

"I wouldn't say it is necessarily manifesting itself in lawsuits at the moment," she says. "The way it is manifesting itself is that corporations are at this point more seriously considering trade secrets as a viable strong alternative to patent protection. It is becoming a more important part of the complement of IP that is available to corporations. It has always been there, but I think with this federal statute now available it really makes it much stronger."

The year also included a change of job for DeFranco. She left Finnegan to become global head of IP litigation at Johnson & Johnson.


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